Former senior CIA officer Laura Thomas joins this week's SpyTalk podcast
Colin Thompson's comments could, unfortunately, apply to most large bureaucracies. CIA's poor record traces all the way back to the shameful treatment of Virginia Hall after WW II in the early days of the Agency. An officer record of proven operational ability, the Agency kept her in desk jobs for the remainder of her career. The Army has its own problems. Claudia Kennedy, a former student of mine at the US Army Intelligence School and the first woman to achieve three star rank, was sexually harassed by another general officer in the Pentagon when she was the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence.
Ms. Thomas makes a number of valid remarks in the podcast as well as her Substack essay on female case officers in the CIA. There are many problems that need to be addressed, if not resolved, before these women can more fully contribute to the success of the CIA's mission. Problem is, this essay could have been written forty, even fifty, years ago. The major difference is that there were far fewer female officers back then. That's depressing. There should have been improvement, at least, but male dominance persists. Male bosses still chase female subordinates around desks. And there are still sexual assaults. Women are discriminated against in the same ways they always have been. Panels, studies, conferences by the dozens. All for nothing? That's even more depressing. Common sense has to prevail in operations, of course., and that will rule out the use of women in some situations, but only some. Otherwise, what a waste of talent. And don't get me started on the advancement of mediocrity. Or the inherent weaknesses in the promotion system. Or risk aversion. Or the Me Tarzan, You Jane syndrome. These are all old hat. In my opinion, the CIA lacks an institutional memory. Not to the extent that it keeps reinventing the wheel. There has to be a continuing plan--and effort-- to solve problems. Not simply to take a swipe at them and then push them aside when interest wanes or a greater priority arises.